Outdoor tent in one of the biggest doubts that come up when planning a trek or a multi-day nature trip. We would like the tent light to carry but at the same time very resistant to water and wind. And that maybe it costs very little.
The outdoor world, on the other hand, offers a large number of situations that can arise. So, as always, you need to make a lucid analysis, without getting too caught up in emotions. At least not before having evaluated all the technical characteristics of the outdoor tent that we like.
How to understand what kind of outdoor tent we need
The first thing to do is to understand the kind of use we are going to make of our outdoor tent. For example, if we go on a two-day trek to the sea, we will not need a super-technical tent worth thousands of dollars but we can be satisfied with a camping tent with sufficient ventilation.
While, on the other hand, if we have to climb Denali it is better to have a real high-altitude mountaineering tent. Otherwise, we will have to carry too much weight and it will not be suitable to withstand the extreme mountain climate.
So, the first distinction to be made is the kind of use, always remember that if you go to an extreme environment the technical material is essential to face the great difficulties that await us!
Then we need to evaluate the duration of our project, in fact even staying at the beach for 15 days in a poor tent will prove to be a bad experience.
Another important consideration should also be made in anticipation of the future use that will be made of this tent. If we think that our journey will be the only one and we only need it as an experience or if we think it is the beginning of a long series of journeys in nature.
Kinds of outdoor tents
The camping tent
A good quality camping tent should be easy to set up. It must be spacious enough so that you can have a comfortable space on rainy days. If you have children and are traveling as a family, you need to provide extra space and therefore awnings with a veranda. These tents are also quite high and therefore offer more wind surface. It is therefore necessary to secure the tent with additional lanyards and pegs.
Pop-up tents have found a lot of space in recent years for unpretentious and short trips to mild environments. Very quick to assemble, economical and comfortable. The disadvantages are that the materials are cheap. When closed they have dimensions that require you to carry them by hand. They are not designed to withstand strong winds or even worse for extreme environments. They are usually built with a single sheet, lighter but also less performing. Often these tents do not have the option of connecting extra cords.
However, if your project is a two or three-day trip to the sea or the hills, a pop-up tent will do just fine.
They are always good quality tents. You can find good quality mountaineering tents even at low prices. However, they are tents that are designed for specific use in the mountains and therefore resistant to the wind, small size, and low weight. Prices vary a lot, sometimes 100 dollars can be enough for a tent. But if you want a product that is durable over time and with good water resistance characteristics, the prices rise significantly.
High-quality tent for expeditions, extreme environments, high altitudes.
High-quality tents are almost always designed to guarantee a good degree of comfort and safety in extreme and hostile environments. These tents use the highest quality materials. They are the result of scientific research and are developed only by highly structured companies with decades of experience in the sector. Often these tents are also studied in the wind tunnel to guarantee resistance to the strong winds that sweep the highest mountains on the planet.
High-quality tents must also be very light because in the most adventurous and difficult expeditions there are often units of measurement smaller than the kg. Crossing Antarctica or Greenland can take months and the weights to be transported eventually become enormous. You will also find these tents with double flysheets and almost certainly in the highest quality Ripstop.
Characteristics of a good outdoor tent
Modern tents are made with innovative and often very expensive materials that raise the final price. Very often, however, we can be satisfied with cheaper tents that solve the problem with a limited budget.
But what are the characteristics that a good outdoor tent must-have?
The first thing I check is the impermeability of the external material. Usually, the product data sheets show a value in mm of the water column. This is a measure used to describe the degree of impermeability of the fabric.
The water column is a value established in the laboratory. A tube with a diameter of 2.5 cm is installed on the fabric.
Water is then inserted into the tube up to the point where the fabric begins to let the liquid pass. A fabric that has a water column value of 5000 mm means that it has withstood water up to 5 meters in height. So a fabric with 5000 mm of the water column is much lower than a fabric that resists to 10000 mm.
Note that this value only indicates the waterproofing of a fabric and not its resistance or durability.
Outdoor tent seams insulation
Once we have a water-resistant material, there is another problem to face, the seams of the various pieces of fabric. This is another weak point in tents and it is a very important thing because the seam creates a weak point in the fabric. It also creates small holes that expand with the tension of the fabric and let the water pass.
The tension in the fabric occurs both when we install the tent and when there is a strong wind.
The solution usually adopted is to apply an insulating product on the seam and then apply waterproofing tape.
The insulating taping of the seams
For tents of good quality even if cheap, the solution is the insulating taping of the seams. Thermo-adhesive tapes are used that join the two pieces of fabric creating a strong bond between very large surfaces. This method makes the union very resistant to both water and traction.
There are also tapes with special adhesives that do not require heat and can also be applied later. However, this solution does not reach the resistance levels of heat-sealed tapes.
The quality of a fabric in a outdoor tent
There are various kinds of materials used for tents but for classic trekking or camping tents two are generally used: Nylon and Polyester. These two materials have very similar characteristics but they are not the same.
Nylon tentsget wet more easily, stain and mold more easily but are lighter in weight.
Polyester tents, with the same density the water column they resist is greater than nylon, dries very quickly, generating less mold, and tends not to stain.
Very often the solution adopted in the best quality tents is to use nylon for the inner cloth and polyester for the outer cloth. In this way, the qualities of the two fabrics are combined to have a more performing result.
For these fabrics, the Denier D is generally used as the unit of measurement to establish the quality of the fabric.
So, a D20 Product will be of much inferior quality to a D80 product.
To orient yourself in the dense forest of commercial offers, we can indicate that the best tents have an outer fabric in polyester with values between D20 and D80. But it is important to remember that when making the comparisons that the D value is a weight value and therefore D40 nylon is different from D40 polyester. And again, a D40 value is not double that of D20 but is almost 1.5 times higher.
Units of measurement in fabric
1 Denier is equal to the weight in grams of 9000 m long wire
A number, followed by the letter T.
This measurement refers to the sum of the vertical and horizontal threads per square inch of fabric.
Ripstop is a production technique of high-quality nylon or polyester fabrics. It is also distinguished with the naked eye for the presence of a weft of squares between 3 and 8 mm per side.
It is used to reinforce high-quality but very light materials, obtaining a product resistant to tearing, wind, and wear while maintaining substantial lightness. You will find it in almost all high altitude or expedition tents and in any case where strong mechanical. You can find more info here.
The waterproofing coating of fabrics
Very often fly-sheet fabrics are treated with silicone or PU. This allows the water to slip even before touching the fabric. The treatment can be done with a mixture of both products. This is an added value, and it is good that you consider the presence of this treatment before purchasing your new outdoor tent.
The outdoor tent poles
There is another important element in trekking or camping tents; the support posts.
In modern tents, the support poles can be in aluminum or fiberglass. Fiberglass is used in camping or inexpensive tents due to its low cost. However, if we need tents with greater resistance, aluminum is used. Usually, 6000 aluminum in light or cheaper trekking tents. In high-performance tents, on the other hand, 7000 aluminum is used, which is more flexible and resistant.
As you have seen, there is a lot of offers on the market for trekking tents. Choosing your ideal tent can be a time-consuming operation. However, our efforts will be rewarded by the best choice we could have made.
Try to evaluate multiple sites or physical stores by comparing the various building materials. It is also often good to consult online reviews. This is because we can understand if a specific awning model has characteristics suitable for us. Technical data sheets are not always sufficient to demonstrate whether a product meets our needs.
All the types of tents that I have shown you are with self-supporting or semi-self-supporting structure. This means that the tent remains stable even without additional pegs and ropes. However, my advice after 40 years of trekking, mountaineering, exploration is to always carry extra lanyards and pegs with you. I know that the weight on our shoulders will increase a little but I guarantee you that winds of over 100 km / h or more can make a tent fly or in any case fold it over you or break it.
Enjoy your tent and good treks!